Women And Hair: A Fairytale With No Happy Ending

Family lore includes a story about my first bad haircut. I was about five-years-old, and it was cut very short. Now, short hair is cute, but mine was naturally curly and unpredictable. That doesn’t always look cute. I was unhappy and refused to leave the car once we returned home. My mom, clearly worn-out from having me as a daughter for five years already, went into the house and stupidly told my brothers not to say anything to me about my hair. Naturally, they came out to the car and pointed and laughed.

Thus began my never-ending journey towards accepting my hair.

I have always considered my curly hair to be a burden. (Along with the burden of being incredibly smart and humble.) It curls right when I want it to go left. It pokes out of ponytails in unattractive ways. It refused to be braided cleanly. It’s as poufy as Julia Roberts’s hair but less cute. Like by 100,000. I have had a hair stylist since I was double digits. No mere Super Cuts could handle me.

Um, not quite what mine would look like. Needs more pokey hairs going every which way. Photo Via demeter clarc

 

Oh sweetie, keep smiling; it distracts from the hair.

Oh sweetie, keep smiling; it distracts from the hair.

 

I can't imagine how long it must have took my mom to get it all in one direction. And, yes, I did wear purple at my First Communion.

I can’t imagine how long it must have taken my mom to get it all in one direction. And, yes, I did wear purple at my First Communion.

I have never been afraid to experiment with my hair. I got it permed a ton when that was a cool thing to do. But Stephanie, you said your hair is naturally curly; why would you perm it? I’m not sure, but I think I thought it would make the curls behave. Plus spiral perms were a thing, so I had to do it. The one good aspect was due to my hair’s natural wave, perms lasted about nine months. I’ve dyed it black, though you couldn’t tell. I’ve put blonde highlights in it. I’ve had it many lengths, sometimes all at once.

A friend and I heading to a bar mitzvah. This picture is just golden. The fashion, the hair....

A friend and I heading to a bar mitzvah. This picture is just golden. The fashion, the hair….

In high school I decided it wasn’t enough to be the skinniest girl ever with the sassiest mouth, I also wanted hair that made me stand out in a bad way. And my parents let me do it because they knew someday the only person who would be embarrassed was me.

Do you see it? That's right; I have a tail that I braided and held together with rainbow elastics. I dyed the tail black once too. Also, do you see my mom's hair? That's where mine came from.

Do you see it? That’s right; I have a tail that I braided and held together with rainbow elastics. I dyed the tail black once too. Also, do you see my mom’s hair? The genetics are strong in this family.

Like I said, I’ve always had a stylist, and it’s because my mom was sympathetic to my plight. She has never really loved her hair either. She used to put her hair around orange juice cans to straighten it. I’m sure that’s why she agreed to paying for my stylist to do my hair before my senior photos.

That's my hair on perm.

That’s my hair on perm.

The long and short of it (sorry, had to do it) is that women have a complicated relationship with hair. We want it off places where it naturally grows. If we have curly hair, we want straight hair, believing it to be much easier to style. And, oh my, the thing about being devoted to our stylists. We can’t even leave them when want to try some new ideas from a new person. We lie and say it’s totally comfortable to be bent at the neck while they wash our hair with scalding water for what feels like 20 minutes. We tell them we love the way they styled it and then brush it out in the car. Do men worry about their hair? Sure. Then they scratch something and move on. They do not obsess over it and buy magazines with impossible styles they think they can do in the five minutes they devote to hair care in the morning.

I am now spitting distance to 40 and have cut off the long hair once again. For now, I like it short and even let it go curly most of the time. Maybe this is me. Maybe this will be me for a long time. Or maybe I’ll get some purple highlights this summer……